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How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

How To Improve Your Sleep Quality And Maintain A Healthy, Productive Life

“To sleep, perchance to dream…”

Okay, so Hamlet was talking about death. But for the purpose of this article, can we just pretend he was talking about hitting the hay for a good night’s rest?

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It’s no surprise that you need to be rested and refreshed in order to be as productive as possible each and every day. Unfortunately, though, sometimes sleep doesn’t come as easy as it should. Those restless nights aren’t entirely random, however. Your actions leading to laying down for the night determine whether you’ll be able to drift off to dreamland, or find yourself wide awake, counting endless sheep until three in the morning.

If you need a good night’s sleep, make sure to:

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1. Avoid chemicals

Tobacco, drugs, alcohol, even caffeine can all keep you from nodding off easily for a variety of reasons. Obviously, caffeine and other stimulants are going to keep you up, even if taken hours beforehand. While alcohol technically does the opposite, you’ll find yourself waking up in the middle of the night after the numbing effects wear off. Don’t you miss the college days, when you could actually sleep through a hangover?

2. Avoid junk food

In the same vein as other chemicals, eating junk food before bed is going to come back to haunt you overnight. If you’ve ever seen Home Improvement, you’ve seen the running gag in which Tim eats some spicy food or sausage and peppers as a “quick snack,” only to end up groaning all night while holding his stomach. While it’s difficult to sleep on a completely empty stomach, you shouldn’t pack it all in before bed as if you’re going to the electric chair. Eat a light snack such as fruit or a salad to hold you over until the morning.

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3. Stay hydrated

Hopefully you’ve taken my previous advice and started drinking more water throughout the day. Your fluid intake throughout the day greatly affects your ability to sleep through the night. Think about it: you go six to eight hours every night without taking a single sip of water. If you hadn’t consumed enough throughout the day, you’re going to end up severely dehydrated overnight. Obviously, you don’t want to drink so much that you keep waking up for other reasons, but make sure you have a glass of the good stuff about an hour before you lay down at night.

4. Eliminate noise

Going to sleep with the TV on is bad enough for your mental and physical health, but now we’ve thrown cell phones into the mix as well. And “noise” doesn’t just refer to sound; excess lighting can also interrupt a good night’s sleep, even on a subconscious level. Finally, the “noise” your thoughts create definitely make it harder to drift off; how can you sleep when you have so much to take care of? As best you can, put your worries on the shelf until morning. There’s really not much you can get done at 1:00AM on a Tuesday, anyway.

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5. Have a routine

Having a routine for pretty much anything makes life easier, right? When your life follows a natural progression, the next step comes to you like clockwork. You probably already have a ritual that you follow, that includes brushing your teeth, washing your face, and other preparatory acts to get you ready to hit the sack. If so, what happens when you miss one of the steps? It probably keeps you up longer than you want to be. If you have a ritual or routine, stick to it. Not only will it help you sleep better, but it’s probably healthier, too.

6. Earn your sleep

If you’ve ever had a day in which you didn’t put much effort into your work or slacked off, neglecting errands in favor of sitting on the couch all evening, it’s more than likely you found it hard to fall asleep that night. Sleep is the human equivalent of recharging our batteries; if we haven’t used up our energy, we have no need to recharge. Of course, if we miss out on a night’s sleep, we’ll certainly feel it the next day, and the cycle of unproductiveness will continue. Take advantage of every single day by putting your all into everything you do. When you go to bed completely exhausted, no matter what else you have going on in life, sleep will come easy.

Featured photo credit: his side of the bed / Liz Lister via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on June 20, 2019

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

Science Says Guitar Players’ Brains Are Different From Others’

There’s nothing quite like picking up a guitar and strumming out some chords. Listening to someone playing the guitar can be mesmerising, it can evoke emotion and a good guitar riff can bring out the best of a song. Many guitar players find a soothing, meditative quality to playing, along with the essence of creating music or busting out an acoustic version of their favourite song. But how does playing the guitar affect the brain?

More and more scientific studies have been looking into how people who play the guitar have different brain functions compared to those who don’t. What they found was quite astonishing and backed up what many guitarists may instinctively know deep down.

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Guitar Players’ Brains Can Synchronise

You didn’t read that wrong! Yes, a 2012 study[1] was conducted in Berlin that looked at the brains of guitar players. The researchers took 12 pairs of players and got them to play the same piece of music while having their brains scanned.

During the experiment, they found something extraordinary happening to each pair of participants – their brains were synchronising with each other. So what does this mean? Well, the neural networks found in the areas of the brain associated with social cognition and music production were most activated when the participants were playing their instruments. In other words, their ability to connect with each other while playing music was exceptionally strong.

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Guitar Players Have a Higher Intuition

Intuition is described as “the ability to understand something instinctively, without the need for conscious reasoning” and this is exactly what’s happening when two people are playing the guitar together.

The ability to synchronise their brains with each other, stems from this developed intuitive talent indicating that guitar players have a definite spiritual dexterity to them. Not only do their brains synchronise with another player, but they can also even anticipate what is to come before and after a set of chords without consciously knowing. This explains witnessing a certain ‘chemistry’ between players in a band and why many bands include brothers who may have an even stronger connection.

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This phenomenon is actually thought to be down to the way guitarists learn how to play – while many musicians learn through reading sheet music, guitar players learn more from listening to others play and feeling their way through the chords. This also shows guitarists have exceptional improvisational skills[2] and quick thinking.

Guitar Players Use More of Their Creative, Unconscious Brain

The same study carried out a different experiment, this time while solo guitarists were shredding. They found that experienced guitar players were found to deactivate the conscious part of their brain extremely easily meaning they were able to activate the unconscious, creative and less practical way of thinking more efficiently.

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This particular area of the brain – the right temporoparietal junction – typically deactivates with ‘long term goal orientation’ in order to stop distractions to get goals accomplished. This was in contrast to the non-guitarists who were unable to shut off the conscious part of their brain which meant they were consciously thinking more about what they were playing.

This isn’t to say that this unconscious way of playing can’t be learnt. Since the brain’s plasticity allows new connections to be made depending on repeated practice, the guitar player’s brain can be developed over time but it’s something about playing the guitar in particular that allows this magic to happen.

Conclusion

While we all know musicians have very quick and creative brains, it seems guitar players have that extra special something. Call it heightened intuition or even a spiritual element – either way, it’s proven that guitarists are an exceptional breed unto themselves!

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Featured photo credit: Lechon Kirb via unsplash.com

Reference

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